It was a relief to get away from the boisterous and indeed volatile atmosphere of the Tommy Robinson protest and counter protest on Saturday. The sleepy back streets between St James Park and Westminster Abbey were, on a hot sunny afternoon, in marked contrast to the frenetic activity normally seen there during the working week.
All of a sudden, my reverie was interrupted by the sound of shouting, screaming and glass smashing. I looked towards the commotion which was occurring further down another small side street. I could see people running about. This was disorder and it was serious.
I had just walked past several police carriers that were parked up. I ran back and frantically knocked on the passenger window of the nearest one. Fortunately, they were occupied by a Met specialist Territorial Support Group (TSG) unit. After the briefest of explanations, the doors flew and officers began running to the scene of the disorder.
I followed and just behind me was a female officer. A man of Mediterranean/Arab appearance approached and in broken English pointed to a shaven headed man in an orange tee shirt sloping down an adjacent side street saying that the individual in question had head butted him.
The female officer diverted and began to follow the suspect, followed by me and the alleged victim. She was then joined by a male colleague, caught up with him and after a brief exchange of words, placed him in cuffs.
As we walked back to the scene, we passed another middle aged shaven headed man, sitting bare-chested and panting in a doorway. The female officer asked if he was OK. He said he was and we left him to it, not having much of an idea as to what had gone on nearby.
Outside the Westminster Arms pub, glass littered the floor and several males had nasty head injuries. One of them turned out to be senior RMT union official Steve Hedley. Police medics were already working on the injured while a female lay sprawled on the floor being comforted by a police officer.
More TSG officers arrived and it was clear that this area was becoming a crime scene; shortly after ambulances and paramedics materialised.
Initially, I’d wrongly assumed it was Tommy Robinson supporters who were in the pub having sloped off to watch the England versus Belgium match and it was they who had been attacked by leftists. In fact, it appears that the reverse was the case. In all five people were injured and the prompt arrival of the TSG officers ensured that eight arrests were made.
The individual slumped in the doorway probably would have made nine, but none of us at that time, had a clue as to what had occurred.
Events of the 9th of June
After doing some west end shopping, I’d popped down to have a look at the previous Free Tommy Robinson protest on June the 9th which turned out to be a difficult day for police. As Robinson supporters swept down from Trafalgar Square into Whitehall, their first act was to attack the handful of officers standing outside the Downing Street gates.
More violence followed at the end of the protest as officers found themselves bombarded with bottles and cans and one small group had to flee after being surrounded by a baying mob, several hundred strong.
Little wonder then that the Met were determined to ensure that serious mob violence against their officers would be reduced to a minimum during this second well-publicised protest.
Interestingly, there were reports that early Saturday morning, police arrested a number of individuals at Kings Cross station as they arrived to take part in Robinson protest. The arrests were in relation to the disorder that occurred on the 9th of June.
Left wing opponents, including ANTIFA, buoyed by the huge ant-Trump demonstration the previous day, were determined to put on a greater show of force than the rather meagre turn out on the 9th.
ANTIFA ignored police directions and met up in Jubilee Gardens on the South Bank. Officers however were waiting and watched by intrigued tourists on a perfect summer’s day, the few hundred opponents of the right set off. Many were masked but if they hoped to somehow break away and confront their opponents, they were to be disappointed. In the event of any mass confrontation with Robinson supporters however, their fate would probably be an unfortunate one.
Escorted by police, ANTIFA walked across Westminster Bridge in order to meet up with other anti-racist protestors who were gathering at Parliament Street, which is an extension of Whitehall. The police tactics were, as before, the keep the Robinson protestors at the north end of Whitehall and their opponents at the south end separated by a large sterile area. Getting from one protest to the other therefore involved a massive detour.
Alas, one scenario not anticipated by police was the fact that Robinson supporters had taken up residency in pubs within the opposition’s designated territory They duly emerged hurling abuse at the ANTIFA arrivals who were quick to respond. Police quickly reacted and placed themselves between the two groups.
ANTIFA met up with the UAF arrivals and they flooded up Parliament Street towards Whitehall. I spotted a number of Robinson individuals walking up with them on the outside. It looked as if the left would attempt to break through the barriers and police line that separated them from the sterile area. More police headed to the barrier and the danger was averted.
The handful of Robinson protestors then walked back on the footway, against the crowd that occupied most of the road before beginning their wearisome chant of ‘Oh Tommy Tommy, Tommy, Tommy Tommy Robinson (the original song; Son of my Father was a hit for Chicory Tip in 1972).
On hearing the chant, the anti-fascist’s surged across the street chanting predictably, ‘Nazi scum off our streets.’ Police moved in quickly to encircle the Robinson crew and escort them to safety. Minutes later a lone, archetypal shaven headed overweight Robinson supporter made the same journey, through the angry throng surrounded by police and bizarrely filming his angry opponents with an iPad.
Sometime later, although the Robinson rally was well underway, a number of his supporters had made their way around the back and there was a short scuffle in the roadway outside Westminster Station. Police again quickly responded and two cordons were formed to keep rivals apart.
The appearance of a large articulated truck proved an interesting diversion and, as it turned out, this was the stage for a PA system and a few half-hearted speeches from those on the left. I decided to take the long walk round to see the end of the Robinson rally which of course was to take me to the above-mentioned disorder at the Westminster Arms.
Interestingly, I had just caught the end of the leftist speeches which advised their protestors to take a safe dispersal route which would take then away from their rivals and down to St James Park Station. Sensible advice which was followed. Standing outside the Westminster Arms in the immediate aftermath of the fracas, the leftist protestors, unaware of what had occurred, could be seem marching in the direction of their duly nominated station.
After the Westminster Arms incident, I enjoyed a leisurely stroll around the fringes of St James’ Park and Horse Guards parade before reaching the top of Whitehall to watch the dispersal of the Robinson rally. The closing speakers were critical of police but not the guy who finally concluded the event. He appealed for a peaceful dispersal and called for a round of applause for the police. In fact, he appealed on several occasions for a round of applause and on each occasion was met with a stony silence.
As the protestors walked back up Whitehall towards Trafalgar Square, chants of ‘shame on you’ were directed towards groups of police officers standing at junctions. There was no filter cordon of police across Whitehall which proved a flashpoint last time but that resulted in the inevitable blocking of the traffic as Robinson supporters surged into Trafalgar Square and stood in front of buses thus bringing the surrounding traffic for miles around, to a grinding halt.
The bus nearest to me attempting to enter the square was being driven by a female driver with a headscarf who appeared to be Muslim. Tommy Robinson posters were placed under the windscreen wipers in what must have been an ordeal for the unfortunate driver who kept her cool throughout and reportedly courageously refused to leave her bus after passengers were evacuated.
Speculation that the bus was singled out because the driver appeared to be Muslim existed on social media. Although I couldn’t see any mass insulting gestures toward her from my vantage point, photographs on social media showed disgraceful behaviour by individuals. Her behaviour though in the circumstances was quite remarkable.
After about 15 minutes, other more sober, sensible elements from the protest began trying to move the largely drunken protestors from the front of the bus. Heated arguments ensued while young, drunken youths began jumping up and down repeating the Chicory Tip song that I used to quite like. Police liaison officers became involved while underneath Nelson’s column another bus trying to exit the square was also being blocked.
Eventually the buses managed to exit as more police became involved. The Robinson protestors were eventually pushed onto the footway to join others, at the foot of Nelson’s column who continued their Chicory Tip ‘tribute.’
The police operation to clear roads was patient in the extreme. They had the numbers to end the traffic blocking situation, but doubtless mindful of the large number of tourists, decided that scuffles and flying missiles were best avoided.
I didn’t see all the incidents that occurred. Earlier there was considerable anger on social media at footage which showed a Robinson supporter punching a police horse in Trafalgar Square and considerable amusement as another police horse appeared to head-butt a Robinson protestor.
We hate police because:
Leaving aside animosities Robinson supporters may have towards police because of past antipathy at football matches, what are their main issues, apart from the actual arrest of Robinson? They claim that police have failed to arrest Muslim grooming gangs and indeed are ‘soft’ on Muslim criminals because of political correctness.
It is fact that early police investigations into grooming and abuse in places such as Rochdale and Rotherham were abysmal yet since then grooming gangs have been locked up hand over fist in Newcastle, Oxford, Banbury, Burnley, Leeds, Dewsbury, Derby, Aylesbury, Preston and Middlesbrough to name but a few. There also seems to be collective amnesia as to the child abuse perpetrated by those in positions of responsibility in both the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England together with staff at private boarding schools, football coaches, pop stars, other so called ‘celebs,’ establishment figures whilst also leaving out of the equation the fact that the overwhelming majority of online child abusers are white.
Then, there is the equation in relation to Islamist terrorism. Those on the right also omit from this policing ineptitude equation the fact that police have frustrated numerous terror plots which have resulted in atrocities being prevented and terrorists being incarcerated. That much of the information comes from the Muslim community itself is again a factor omitted from rabble rousing speeches and social media.
Another complaint by those who follow Robinson is the fact that whilst serving his sentence Tommy is at considerable risk from Muslim prison gangs. There is absolutely no doubt that significant risk exists, yet those individuals who make up the gangs presumably find themselves behind prison walls courtesy of the Muslim hating tooth fairy rather than the police!
The chants directed at police by Robinson supporters of ‘scum’ and ‘shame on you’ are perhaps even more galling when you consider that at some time in the future the same chants and abuse could be directed against PC Wayne Marques and PC Charlie Guenigault; recognised heroes who famously took on the Islamist terrorists at London Bridge.
In any event, those ‘patriots’ who yell ‘scum’ and ‘shame on you’ at uniform police officers are abusing those who will run and perhaps have run, towards terrorist incidents such as we saw on Westminster Bridge, at London Bridge and Manchester Arena.
As an ex-police officer I could be accused of having rose-tinted glasses’ when it comes to policing but the officers I saw, who performed duty on Saturday were quite simply, a credit. Their treatment of individuals from all sides was professional, polite and impartial. Despite the obvious tensions that existed and the discomfort of being ‘kitted out’ in the heat, they were unfailingly good humoured and patient when dealing with enquiries from all, including tourists.
Attempts to goad officers with face to face abuse failed while their reaction to the Westminster Arms incident demonstrated the professionalism that exists throughout the police service.
Although police may feel they are losing control of the streets in general terms, they kept control on Saturday. Sadly, the media now trawl around for stories that denigrate police while praise only seems to be given if the officer is murdered or nearly dies and even then that praise is fleeting.
At present, a police officer’s lot is clearly ‘not a happy one.’